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Slow Cooker Pinto Beans are all about simplicity and flavor. Using a slow cooker (crock pot) means you can prepare the beans and let them simmer away, requiring minimal attention as they become tender and deeply infused with aromatics like onions, cumin, and oregano. A convenient method that delivers a satisfying and versatile side dish that’s brimming with classic Mexican flavors.
It’s the kind of recipe you’ll find yourself returning to, especially on days when you’re after a dependable, comforting dish with minimal fuss. Perfect for both the seasoned cook and the beginner, these seasoned beans are likely to become a staple in your kitchen.
Table of Contents
Ingredients You Need for Slow Cooker Pinto Beans
- Dried Pinto Beans: Look for dry beans that are free from visible imperfections or damage. While dried beans have a long shelf life, older beans can take longer to cook and may not soften properly. If possible, buy dried beans from stores or suppliers with a high turnover.
- Fine Sea Salt: Or about twice the amount of kosher salt.
- Olive Oil: First cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil has the most robust flavor.
- Onion: Choose firm onions with a smooth surface. White or Yellow onions are the most commonly used in Mexican cuisine.
- Garlic: Fresh cloves should be plump and firm. Avoid ones with green shoots, discoloration or signs of mold.
- Ground Cumin: Look for a vibrant brownish-yellow color, a good indicator of freshness. The aroma should be strong and distinctly earthy when you open the container.
- Ground Coriander: The color should be a light tan to brown and should have a slightly sweet, citrusy aroma.
- Chipotle Chile Powder: This is made from ground, smoke-dried jalapeños (not a blend of spices as standard chili powder is), for an added dimension of spicy-smoky flavor.
- Dried Oregano: Ideally, choose Mexican oregano. It’s bolder in flavor compared to its Mediterranean counterpart.
- Bay Leaves: Use dried bay leaves that are still fragrant.
- Fine Sea Salt
Why cook your own beans?
Beyond being the economical choice, cooking your own dried beans rather than relying on canned options offers some distinct advantages. Dried beans allow you to control the texture and flavor more precisely, giving you the freedom to infuse them with your preferred seasonings and aromatics. Unlike canned beans, dried beans also let you adjust the salt content and avoid unnecessary preservatives. While it takes a bit more time, the end result is a satisfying dish that offers both quality and economy.
- For the dried pinto beans, you can substitute other beans like black beans or kidney beans in this recipe. Keep in mind that different beans may have varying cooking times and flavors, so you may need to adjust the cooking time.
- If you don’t have ground cumin, ground coriander, or chipotle chile powder on hand, experiment with other spices like chili powder or smoked paprika to add warmth and smokiness.
- For a different herbal note, replace dried oregano with dried thyme or even a touch of Italian seasoning.
- If you prefer a milder dish, decrease or omit the chipotle chile powder and add a mild chili powder to taste. And for a spicier dish add cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes.
- Instead of water, you can cook the beans in chicken broth or vegetable broth.
What if I forgot to soak the beans overnight?
If you forgot to soak the beans, you can use the quick-soak method. Add dry beans to a large pot and add 6 cups cold water and 1 tablespoon fine sea salt; bring to boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans, add to slow cooker and proceed with step 2 of the recipe.
How to Store and Reheat
Allow the leftover beans to cool, then transfer them along with the cooking liquid to an airtight container. They’ll keep in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen beans in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature before reheating.
To reheat on the stove top, add to a saucepan along with some of the cooking liquid and warm over low to medium-low heat, adding a splash of water if needed. (Reheating them too quickly can cause the beans to split.) The flavors meld even more over time, so they may taste even better than the day you made them!
Try on Their Own or in These Recipes
- Chorizo Tacos
- Carne Asada Tacos
- Ground Pork Tacos
- Mexican Rice (For a classic side combination to any Mexican-inspired main course.)
- Shredded Chicken Nachos
How to Make Slow Cooker Pinto Beans
Soak pinto beans in salted water in a slow cooker overnight. Drain and rinse in the morning, returning them to the cooker.
Sauté onion in olive oil until soft, then add garlic briefly. Combine with beans in slow cooker. Mix in spices, bay leaves, salt, and water. Cook on low for 5 to 8 hours or high for 3 to 5 hours, checking for tenderness often after the first few hours. Remove bay leaves and serve, with or without liquid.
Slow Cooker Pinto Beans
To Soak Pinto Beans Overnight
- 1 pound dried pinto beans picked over for stones and dirt
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- 6 cups water
For Cooking Pinto Beans in Slow Cooker
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano ideally Mexican oregano
- 2 small bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 cups water
- The night before you plan to cook the beans, add dry pinto beans, 1 tablespoon fine sea salt and 6 cups water to the bowl of a slow cooker. Stir to combine; let soak overnight (At least 4 hours and up to 12 hours). In the morning, drain and rinse beans and return to slow cooker.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add onion, cook and stir 3 to 4 minutes until starting to soften. Add garlic; cook and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Transfer to soaked, rinsed and drained beans in slow cooker. Add cumin, coriander, chipotle chile powder, oregano, bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt and fresh water; stir to combine.
- Cook on low for 5 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 5 hours (size and age of beans determines cooking time). After 5 hours on low or 3 hours on high, check beans for doneness every 15 to 30 minutes until they are tender. Remove and discard bay leaves. Serve beans with or without liquid. (recipe note #2)
- Note that time calculation does not include overnight soaking time.
- Allow leftover beans to cool in slow cooker for the best texture and flavor; transfer beans along with cooking liquid to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.